Continuing the efforts of the earth scientists to explore the red planet for signs of life, NASA recently announced that the Maven Mission is almost ready for launching. The Maven orbiter would be studying the high atmosphere of the planet in interpreting the different aspects that led to the depletion of air from the environment of Mars. Evidences from past missions suggest that the planet once had a thick blanket of atmospheric gases, which even supported the presence of liquid water on the surface. However, the current air pressure on Mars surface stands too low for the presence of water. The new orbiter would leave for space from Florida, boarded on an Atlas V rocket.
The Air Force station at Cape Canaveral set aside a two-hour window of ceasing air traffic for the launch to take place effectively. The duration set is within 11.28 and 13.28 local time. The earnest endeavor of the space agency and the air traffic controllers would be to complete the launching mission at the earliest. The upper level of the rocket would be releasing the Maven at approximately 53 minutes from the launch. The orbiter would be undertaking a ten month long journey to reach its destination through the space. Guy Beutelschies, the operational manager at spacecraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin, explained that the probe would unravel its solar arrays and direct them towards the sun at all times to gather the necessary energy for the transit.
The atmosphere at Mars predominantly consists of carbon dioxide and is very thin to support any kind of life on the planet. The relative atmospheric pressure on Mars is only about 0.6% that of Earth, which means that any flowing liquid on the surface would be immediately boiling out. However, the surface of the planet consists of deep topographical channels pointing to the fact that the planet once had an abundant supply of flowing water. Researchers are pointing out to the fact that the planet once had a highly dense atmosphere conducive to life, but the constant flux of solar winds eventually eroded the traces of life from the planet. This also points to the fact that the Red Planet does not have the strong deflective magnetic field of the Earth, which constantly deflects the radioactive particles from the solar emissions.
The Maven or the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft would be measuring the rate of loss of the air molecules in the atmosphere. These data would provide the scientists with critical information on how the planet’s climate changed over millions of years. The probe weighs 2.4 tonnes and carries 8 advanced space research instruments to facilitate the investigation. The Mars arrival of the probe would be on 22nd September, 2014. The scientists would also use the probe to undertake some direct sampling from Mars surface through deep digging processes. Recently, India also launched its Mangalyaan Mission to Mars on 5th September. However, the US mission would reach the orbit of the distant planet a few days prior to the Indian mission, which undertakes a little extended space travel trajectory.